Monday, November 17, 2008

Julius Caesar

Mark Antony, a good friend of Julius Caesar, speaks at his funeral. Brutus allows him to do so, disregarding the advice of Cassius. He knows that if he speaks directly against Cassius and Brutus, he will put his life in danger. Here are a few lines from his famous speech:

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears:
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Caesar. The noble Brutus
Hath told you Caesar was ambitious:
If it were so, it was a grievous fault,
And grievously hath Caesar answered it.
(Here, under leave of Brutus and the rest –
For Brutus is an honorable man;
So are they all, all honorable men )–
Come I to speak in Caesar’s funeral.
He was my friend, faithful and just to me:
But Brutus says he was ambitious;
And Brutus is an honorable man.

Mark Antony asks the crowd to listen to him when he uses the phrase "lend me your ears". He says that the evil men do lives after them. This appears to suggest that Caesar was evil but the key word in the speech is "men". In fact, Mark Antony communicates that the men who live, Brutus and Cassius are the evil ones, not Julius Caesar.

The sentence "The good is oft interred with their bones" does not mean that whatever good was in Caesar has been buried. Rather, it means that the good man is now dead. This serves to praise Caesar despite the words "I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him."

The use of the word "noble" to describe Brutus is also ironic. Mark Antony does not directly state that Julius Caesar was ambitious. Rather, he reminds the crowd that it was Brutus who made the claim. He also tells the crowd that if Caesar was ambitious, it was a serious fault and he paid for it with his life. The use of "if" indicates that Mark Antony does not agree with Brutus.

The use of the sentence "For Brutus is an honorable man" is also ironic. The phrase "all honorable men" serves to include all who conspired against Julius Caesar, notably Cassius as well as Brutus.

Mark Antony praises Julius Caesar more when he reminds the crowd that Julius Caesar was his friend, faithful and just. He later repeats that Brutus is an honorable man. He uses irony and repetition to turn the crowd against Brutus.

Mark Antony's oratory is ironic, powerful and indirect. Though he tells the crowd that Brutus and Cassius have given him permission to speak, he makes it clear that he does not share their opinion of Julius Caesar. His words tell the crowd that he does not support the assassination and help to turn public opinion against Brutus and Cassius, ultimately leading to their downfall.

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